Thursday, July 22, 2010

Skyhook Geolocation with a Zipit Z2?

I've been tweeting the wifi access points that my Zipit can see.  It just occurred to me, I should be able to stuff that into the Skyhook API and get a decent latlong value.  Hrm...

Looks like I'll need to get python working on the Z2.  Another possibility would be to gather the base station MAC addrs and post them raw to a cgi-script elsewhere, letting my own server do the skyhook request (and SimpleGeo post).  That's cheating, tho.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Netbook ... and the Old One Lives On

I got a Vaio M111AX a few weeks ago, and decorated it with the new Cat Woman. Comic book heroes seem to work really well for netbooks. What's funny is it turns out this was perfect timing, as no sooner did I put my beloved Wonder Woman netbook in a cabinet, than my brother asked if I knew any netbook models that are good to purchase used.

So, Wonder Woman is headed north, so that my brother can take her to burning man, just in case he needs to reprogram his pants. (Yep, I said "reprogram his pants.")  Recycling is awesome -- the Wonder Woman netbook has a completely new life, now!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Even more Zipit fun

I know!  I know.  I can't stop.  I just loaded IZ2S (enhanced) 2.05b onto my Z2.  The dialog-based wifi setup is easier.  Also, the console font fits lots more columns on the page.  I copied over my script that scans for local wifi SSIDs and then posts to twitter -- it works just fine.  Gonna leave this one in the SD slot for a while -- it's great!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


That's Sven messing with the Zipit Z2.  Shortly after this, he demonstrated that you can, indeed, record audio on the thing.  Then he discovered the nfs filesystem support.  Sadly, sunsite no longer exports a public, read-only nfs volume to test against.  (I'm not kidding, he tried.)  That was just the first thirty minutes.  It's only a matter of time before he cross-compiles bind and runs from it.  I'm taking it away before it becomes the first node in Skynet.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Weekend of Zipit Linux

Okay, so I spent a bunch of time messing with linux on the Zipit Wireless Z2, and took so many notes I put them in a separate page.  Installing and booting into the manufacturer's shell environment wasn't too tricky.  Getting the wifi to talk WPA2 was sneaky, but simple.

Next, I traded up to the IZ2S version of the shell, which has lots more stuff in it.  I got a web server running on the little toy, then figured out how to ssh to it, then finally topped it all off by making a twitter account and having it tweet something.  Zooom!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Island of Misfit Storage Formats

So, the Zipit's add-on storage option was designed by Goldilocks.  The micro-SD format, that many cellfones use, is too small.  A standard SD card, that cameras and netbooks favor, is too big.  The "mini" SD is just right -- and who else uses it, I don't know.

I found a package from Patriot gathering dust at the local electronics superstore.  It's a teeny 2g micro-SD card, but it comes with an adapter to make it a mini-SD card plus a second adapter that makes it a regular SD card.  Problem solved, for ten bucks.

Now I just need porridge and bed adapter sets.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Zipit Wireless Messenger 2 (Z2)

I added the keys, for scale.
My new toy arrived today, a Zipit Wireless Messenger 2.  This little wifi-enabled palmtop computer caught my attention because you can hax0r it to run linux.  Oh, that and it costs fifty bucks, and we had a four-year-old target gift card for just that sum, gathering dust on a shelf.  Yoink!

Okay, so I unboxed it, plugged it in to AC so it can charge, and immediately did a google search for "zipit linux."  I expected to see links to some of the hack a day posts, or linux-for-devices posts that I've enjoyed lately.  Instead, I get the company's very own portal to resources for running linux on this thing!  I mean, they even link to tons of detailed tech specs!

This is a wonderful contrast to some companies' attitudes -- who've removed linux support to placate copyright bullies.  Seriously.  Homebrew.  It'll find a way in, with or without you.  "With" is whey more fun for everyone ... just sayin'.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I've subscribed to Nature for about a decade, now.  It predates my biology degree, so there was a good span of time where I bought it not for the articles, but unabashedly for the photos.  I remember it was because I kept hearing news stories lead in with "as reported in the journal Nature, this week," and I wanted to get it directly from the source.  It's not a cheap subscription, but for me it's a keeper.

Nowadays, my friend justkristin gets my hand-me-downs after I read them.  Most weeks, I add a post-it on the front, identifying my favorite item inside.  And although I understand the science content now -- a good set of photos is still just as sweet.  Ah, science pr0n.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fixing wifi on a Sony Vaio M111AX running Ubuntu 10.04

My cute new Sony Vaio M111AX couldn't see its wifi card, a RealTek 2860.  Luckily it's a popular netbook card, and after sifting through this ubuntu forum post, and ubuntu bug 541620, it turns out to be reeeeely simple.  When /var/log/messages (or dmesg) says this:

Jul  5 14:38:17 smuurgh kernel: [   15.936530] !!! rt28xx Initialized fail !!!
Jul  5 14:38:17 smuurgh kernel: [   16.409677] RtmpOSFileOpen(): Error 2 opening /etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/RT2860STA.dat
Jul  5 14:38:17 smuurgh kernel: [   16.409686] Open file "/etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/RT2860STA.dat" failed!
It doesn't even care what's in the file, just that it exists.  So if you create an empty file:
sudo mkdir -p /etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/
sudo touch /etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/RT2860STA.dat

Your wireless card should appear as soon as you restart the network-manager:
sudo service network-manager restart